SureStart pulls the plug on our estate's toddler group

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 05/08/2006 - 22:14

Well, that's the post-election rest out of the window.

I got a phone call today from the Under-5s Project saying that SureStart has pulled the funding for the baby & toddler group on our estate with immediate effect.

This is appalling. The families who use the group will be very hurt by this decision, and kids and parents of the future will miss out too. The attendance at our group was not high, but isolated and vulnerable parents need toddler groups, and in "difficult" communities like ours (ie. with a lot of poverty, many languages spoken, etc), the help provided to just a few families can be very important.

Over the four years since the group started (after a lengthy fight with sureStart), I have seen many children come to the sessions, become more confident, and develop their social and creative skills. I have seen their parents make friends, and seen families become more involved in their communities, sometimes having known none of their neighbours before.

Under government instruction, SureStart is moving towards the "Children's Centre" model, with services concentrated in showpiece centres (in our case, the Ann Tayler Centre) at the expense of services in the community. Children's Centres will have more impressive events, and possibly (though not certainly) higher attendance figures, but they will NOT reach the families which need them most.

People carriers in the Children's Centre car park, mums going mad at home on the estates.

SureStart Queensbridge & Dalston is cutting funding to services in the community. The Hackney Playbus has already come under its axe, now our toddler group has too, and other groups are being forced to close or merge.

We have been given no notice (surely the timing of the Council election was nothing to do with this!), leaving us little scope to appeal the decision or to find alternative funding.

New Labour - both in government and in the Town Hall - is continually boasting that SureStart is one of its great achievements. Which tells you more about its achievements than it does about SureStart.

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Submitted by Janine on Thu, 05/11/2006 - 22:36

Sure Start has restored funding for one of the two sessions per week. This follows our TRA writing to them, and getting sympathetic coverage in this week's Hackney Gazette.

The fight doesn't stop here, of course, but it's a good start. It seems that there have been several other cuts to similar groups locally. Are we really the only one to make a fuss about it? I hope not.

Good day today. As well as that success, we had the delights of summer starting for real. I saw two terapins sunbathing on a log in Clissold Park lake while cycling to work this morning, and spent the afternoon with the kids getting 120kg of new sand for their sandpit, which I unloaded from the car and lobbed over the garden fence (fortunately, it was in eight separate bags!).